I began attending my church six years ago with my family, shortly after moving to Alexandria, Virginia. I was, and still am, a stay-at-home mother to our two daughters, who were then three years old and three months old. My husband and I had moved six times in our 13 years of marriage, and we were hoping to finally settle in one place and raise our children. Our decision to look for a church began with me. I had never attended church before. Initially, I wanted to attend church for two reasons: to learn more about religion in order to discover the nature of my own beliefs, and to forge some bonds with people in my new, and hopefully permanent, community. More importantly, I wanted these same things for my children.
Our frequent moves had taken a toll on me. I lacked a feeling of connectedness to other people, a feeling exacerbated by my decision to stop working when our first daughter was born. What had appeared to be the ideal choice for me and my family left me feeling lonely, depressed, and as though my life lacked purpose. Work had brought me into contact with other adults. By attending church, I was hoping to recover a sense of purpose, if only to hear that the best and greatest use of my time was raising my children. I knew being a stay-at-home mother was the right thing to do, but I felt guilty that I did not feel fulfilled in that role.
“Slow” is the adjective that best describes what life at home with two small children was like for me. Prior to having children, the pace of my life was frenetic. Everything I did was marked by urgency. I never really stopped to think about why that was or whether it was good or bad. The pace of life slowed precipitously after my children were born. There was plenty to do, but the work was different. There were no deadlines to meet, no places I had to go, and no telephone calls I had to make. The work of being at home with my daughters was mindless in many respects, and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of the larger questions that I had never made time to reflect on before. When I stepped back and began to watch others, I recognized that when I had been working I had been caught up in a way of life that is ingrained in American culture. I began to think about my values. I began to question everything I did and thought. In retrospect, I realize what a gift it was to have the opportunity to slow down and reflect. It felt like someone opened a door for me, just a crack, allowing me to see another way to live, a more purposeful and meaningful way. I decided to make some positive changes for my own benefit—and that of my family.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I have taken this advice. I value family life, and my slower pace of my life means that I have the time and energy to take care of my family. I have always felt a strong sense of environmental stewardship and I have taken this to new levels in the recent past. My environmental concerns are reflected in the ways in which I use my time, energy, and money. My home life is fairly simplistic. We have kept our possessions to a minimum. Our decisions about the things we buy—including food, household items, and clothing—take into consideration the environmental impact of the creation, use, and disposal of these items. I have also joined the Environmental Stewardship Committee at my church. Together we are committed to making the church facility “green” and to encouraging other parishioners to make changes in their own lives to that end. I even started a paper recycling program at my daughters’ school.
I have received a great deal of validation of my values at church, both in the lessons and sermons I hear and from the many friends I have made. I feel that I was ready to hear God’s message six years ago and that I was led, almost as if by an invisible string, to embark on a journey of discovery that began with joining a church. I have more clarity about my purpose in life. This helps me to make the best use of my time and energy to fulfill what I believe is my calling.
Becky Hunger lives with her husband David and and her two daughters in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to devoting herself full-time to her family shortly after the birth of her first child, she worked as a caseworker for a food bank in Eugene, Oregon, and for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Hyannis, Massachusetts. An ardent proponent of environmental responsibility, she recently became a member of the Creation Stewardship Committee at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria, where she has been a member since 1999. She is captivated by history, particularly modern history, and is working on a master’s degree in history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.